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2.1.8 Green Public Procurement


This paper summarises the interventions implemented by the Welsh Government in relation to public sector procurement activities and resource/waste management to achieve better environmental, economic and social outcomes for Wales in the context of the circular economy approach.

The high level interventions past and present are listed along with opportunities identified to support the Welsh Government’s objective of one planet living, contributions towards the well-being goals of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and, more recently, emphasising the commitment to move towards a more circular economy for Wales. Policy interventions that are transferable across regions are also identified in this paper.


Wales has had a waste plan in place since 2002, the latest iteration of the plan being Towards Zero Waste’ published in 2010.  This has been adopted by the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs as the current plan to deliver resource efficient outcomes through a more circular economy.

A circular economy is one where materials can be productively used again and again, creating added value and associated multiple benefits. More value should be placed on the resources often taken for granted, through reducing what we use, and wherever possible keeping materials and goods in use for longer. The approach moves away from the throwaway culture and encourages behaviours that will help protect our environment.

Recent studies by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, WRAP and the Green Alliance have identified potential savings and income of more than £2 billion each year to the Welsh economy and up to 30,000 new jobs through the development of a more circular economy.

Wales’ recycling rate has increased from just under 7% in 2002 to 64% in 2017 - the third best recycling nation in the world. The success seen in Wales is largely due to the clarity and direction of the national waste strategy for Wales, Towards Zero Waste.

The importance of public sector procurement

The public sector as a whole is a significant employer in Wales, and a major procurer of goods and services from private sector businesses and social enterprises.  Annual Welsh public sector procurement expenditure amounts to approximately £5.5bn, representing over a third of the entire Welsh Government budget settlement from the UK Government.

Since the publication of ‘Towards Zero Waste’ (TZW) in 2010 and the Waste Prevention Programme in 2012 there has been a clear commitment by the Welsh Government to improve the efficacy of resource management practice in the public sector and also for the sector to lead by example through sustainable procurement activities.  Procurement can play an important transformative role in helping to deliver circular economy outcomes for Wales, particularly in the public sector given its budget.

Public procurement can be resouce efficient generally by focussing on products procured directly, and those used in service contracts. There needs to be a hierachy checklist for resource effiency in procurement which could be along the lines of the folowing:

  • Why buy this item, and why buy so much? Are there unused stocks already available in another part of the estate.
  • Buy second hand/reused.
  • Buy remanufactured
  • Can the product be leased?
  • If it has to be bought, consider (not in priority order):

    • Minimise/eliminate hazardous components in the product, and generated as hazardous waste in the production procress
    • Make sure the product has a long life/high durability, and is easily upgradeable, repairable (with a repair/dissassembly manual/inventory of parts/materials made compulsory – including for new buildings)
    • Buy with a high recycled content.
    • Buy products with the lowest carbon, water, material and land use footprints.
    • How to maximise the social impacts / community benefits?
    • How will it have to be disposed of? Wil, the supplier take it back for recycling or diposal


- Plans and Programmes Towards Zero Waste – Waste Strategy for Wales

TZW recognised the important role of the public sector as a significant employer and its ability to influence procurement activity in relation to supply chains.  TZW also identified the importance of leading by example through the promotion of sustainable consumption and production and by our aspirational ‘one Wales: one planet’ goal.

A key policy priority of TZW is to use public sector procurement to help to create a market for recyclate by buying products with a high reyccled content, ideally sourced from Wales.

- Adopting a  behaviour change approach – using the 4 Es approach:

The Welsh Government has adopted an effective model for creating an approach to drive long term change, called the “4Es” approach. This is simply a way of working through the interventions which need to act together in order to catalyse change.

The 4Es approach is explained in the Sustainable Lifestyles Framework published by the UK Government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra, 2008). The Framework outlines a set of key behaviours that constitute a sustainable lifestyle, identifies best practice to influence behaviour and key insights on why some people act, all informed by a robust evidence base.

The 4Es approach is a series of interventions under the following four behaviour change categories:

  • Encourage
  • Exemplify
  • Engage
  • Enable

The section below identifies the 4Es approach adopted by the Welsh Government is respect of achieving greater resource efficiency through public procurement.

What we have done


The Welsh Government encourages the public sector to adopt waste prevention and resource efficiency measures in order to demonstrate public sector commitment to sustainability, and also to send a clear signal to the public sector workforce and its suppliers through exemplifying practices.

Specifically the Welsh Government encourages public bodies in Wales to achieve a sustainable approach with public sector procurement activities by ensuring that the power of Welsh public procurement drives cost effective sustainable outcomes in Welsh businesses in the supply chain, so that they develop more sustainable products and services, using resources more efficiently, including using higher recycled content (including compost in topsoil used in landscaping), and designed for reuse, ease of repair and ease of disassembly and recycling.

The Welsh Government also encourages the public sector to act as an exemplar in its working practices in relation to waste and resource efficiency management and in particular, in relation to its procurement activities.

Exemplifying - High level Governmental (Cabinet Secretary) commitment

There is clear leadership on the circular economy agenda by Welsh Ministers, for example the Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs published an oral statement on 14 June 2016 ‘Building on our recycling success for a Circular Economy’.  In the statement the Minister made a commitment to ‘explore all necessary mechanisms, including legislation, to require a high content of recycled materials in products procured by the Welsh public sector.

In September 2017 the Wales Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs published a written statement on Extended Producer Responsibility which included a commitment to the circular economy approach whereby keeping materials and goods in use for longer. Moving away from the throw away culture and encourage behaviours which will help protect our environment.

In October 2017, the Cabinet Secretary led a government debate on the Circular Economy. She identified that achieving a more circular economy is a challenging task involving all parts of the supply and waste management chain. To help achieve this collaborative approach WRAP Cymru has set up a circular economy taskforce for Wales, involving representatives from manufacturers, retailers, Local Authorities and the waste industry. Their initial focus has been on plastics, where in Wales there is a significant number of diverse manufacturing companies producing moulded plastic products and components.

WRAP is working with stakeholders to produce a plastics route-map with the aim of creating a better market for recycled plastic in products made in Wales. This will help create jobs in Wales and reduce reliance on overseas markets for waste plastic. This work will include examining the plastic products procured by the public sector in Wales, and the scope to increase recycled content, possibly by requiring it in public sector contracts.

The Cabinet Secretary also emphasised the need for more circular economy business models to be developed in Wales. Through procurement activities, the Welsh Government and the public sector can lead by example by saving money as a result of sustainable product selection, waste prevention, reuse and recycling. The Welsh Government is working with public sector bodies to drive cost-effective, sustainable outcomes in Welsh businesses in the public sector supply chain, so they can develop more sustainable products and services, using resources more efficiently, including products using high recycled content, designed for reuse, ease of repair, disassembly and recycling.

Exemplifying - through use of procurement case studies

An excellent example of the power of public sector procurement can be seen in the case study9 published by WRAP Cymru on the use of remanufactured furniture by Public Health Wales when they moved to a single central office in Cardiff. The bulk of the furniture used for the new office was either re-used and re-manufactured from existing furniture or sourced from elsewhere, many of these items, had they not been re-used, would have been destined for landfill.

In the refit, 1,143 individual items were re-used; these items were cleaned, repaired and reupholstered. A further 1,270 items were re-manufactured, which involved taking the long life elements of high quality used furniture (like metal frames), checking and resurfacing them, and rebuilding the rest of the item around them. Items reused or remanufactured included:

  •  Office chairs, canteen and meeting chairs
  •  Carpet tiles
  •  Office pedestals
  •  Desk high storage cabinets
  •  Sofas, white boards and coat stands.

In total, the project saved around 134 tonnes of C02e and 41 tonnes of waste has been diverted from landfill.

Encourage - Legislation Well-being Future Generations Wales Act 2015

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (WFGA) strengthens existing governance arrangements for improving the well-being of Wales to ensure that present needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  It is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales.  The Act will ensure that public bodies in Wales carry out their activities in a sustainable way so that we can achieve a sustainable Wales, now and in the future.

To make sure that in Wales we are all working towards the same vision, the Act puts in place seven well-being goals. They are for a prosperous; resilient; healthier; more equal and globally responsible Wales; with cohesive communities; a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language.  The goals show the kind of Wales we want to see. Together they provide a shared vision for the public bodies listed in the Act to work towards.

All public sector procurement needs to comply with the WFGA requirements including to maximise the contribution to the well-being goals and the 5 ways of working.  In particular  ‘A Prosperous Wales’ requires the efficient use of resources.


The Welsh public sector will seek collaboration through its supply chain to reduce waste arisings and achieve more sustainable business models. Opportunities are being explored to trial new circular economy approaches through Welsh Government public sector procurement initiatives such as ‘Better Jobs, Closer to Home’ and the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)10.

Enabling through Delivery Partner funding

To help embed circular economy and sustainability into procurement policies and practice into public sector organisations, the Welsh Government has funded WRAP Cymru to deliver support programmes to help the sector rethink the way it procures goods and services, delivering a step change in its approach to waste and resource efficiency.

Components of the support programme to the public sector by WRAP Cymru includes:

  • Organisational Support: Provision of consultancy support to individual public sector organisations and influential bodies such as the National Procurement Service to implement resource efficiency (materials & waste) activities.
  • Supportive Case Study Evidence: Development of viable pilot projects  (this includes looking at cost-effective decarbonisation initiatives and assessing the role of low carbon supply options, and exploring opportunities for procuring more recycled and/or reused materials). Publishing case studies to demonstrate best practice will enable these to act as exemplars for other public sector organisations.
  • Networking Events: Organising events to showcase organisations that deliver services/ products that work towards meeting the needs of a circular economy and sustainable practices to provide inspiration/example to others.
  • Procurement Frameworks: Development of frameworks that enable public sector organisations to identify and employ alternative procurement practices embedding principles of circular economy and sustainability.


The evaluation of the Wales Waste strategy is due to complete in the autumn of 2017 – the findings from the evaluation along with consultation with stakeholders, shared learning from interregional partners and other administrations will help to inform the development of the updated strategy and new resource efficiency route map for Wales. The updated strategy will have an even stronger focus on circular economy principles and the opportunities for Wales to make a greater contribution towards the Well-being goals of the WFGA. Resource efficient practices including circular economy business models in public sector procurement will feature strongly in the route map.